City Guide: Rennes

Georgia N. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Lovett School in Georgia.

Arriving in Rennes, everything was new, foreign, and thoroughly overwhelming; Walking through the city, I felt lost in the dark trying to choose a restaurant for lunch, a café, or somewhere to do my homework. Though it has only been a few months now, I feel much more comfortable, and I’ve found some incredible spots. So, to save you the trouble of sifting through every option if you find yourself in the proud capital of Bretagne or simply to give a better idea of the where I now live, here are the places I’ve been haunting so far in Rennes.

1.      Cinema Arvor

There are plenty of movie theaters in Rennes where you can see anything your local AMC might carry, be it Le Gaumont or another, but Cinema Arvor is a bit different. This classic mom-and-pop-style theater is situated a few minutes’ walk from Place de la Visitation and specializes in foreign and independent films. I’ll be honest, the crowd here isn’t great; usually, Arvor attracts middle-aged men, teachers, and the occasional university couple, but don’t let that deter you—whether it be the original Carrie on Halloween or a Quebecois Xavier Dolan drama with French subtitles, Arvor always has something interesting playing, and the conversational and welcoming staff will make you feel right at home. Maybe it’s the fact that the employees come into the screening rooms before every film to personally thank the audience and introduce the film, or that they were more than kind to me when I stopped in lost on my very first day in Rennes, but there’s something magical about the old theater and the sense of community it harbors. Honestly, come Friday night, there is no where I’d rather be.

2.      Chawp Shop

Though I understand and appreciate the French cuisine I’m surrounded by, I will always have a place in my heart for Asian. After trying many different restaurants inspired by all parts of east Asia, I’ve decided that Chawp Shop is (so far) the best. This being said, I am talking exclusively about the location on Rue de Penhoët, seeing as it has the largest menu. The ambiance in this restaurant is so fun, with neon lights and industrial decor, and the food is so incredibly good (a mix of Thai, Cambodian, and Laotian). Some of the must-eats at Chawp Shop are the phad see aew, kang kari, and the “rice coco” dessert, a life-changing take on mango sticky rice.

3.      Parc du Thabor

If you’re considering SYA France or know anyone who has done it, you’ve probably heard about the Parc du Thabor. Though it is usually cloudy in Bretagne, there are few things better than a day spent in the sun in this park. Here, you can find a rose garden, a green house, open fields to work or chat or nap on, cafés to grab an Orangina at, an aviary full of tropical birds and, my personal favorite, a stream that ends in a perfect, cascading waterfall. Even more so, there are often events held here like the annual (free) I’m From Rennes music festival. As a foreigner in a new city, it’s nice to have a spot where you know you can come, do as you please, and not feel stressed or out of place. For me, this park has been a real blessing.

4.      Soleil Noir

Since arriving in Rennes, I’ve done a lot of my shopping here. This vintage shop has everything you could want, from a wall exclusively dedicated to converse to a room of vintage leather and crocodile bags. Came unprepared for the Bretagne climate? Grab yourself a quality jacket and some gloves. Looking to dress up? Find a genuine YSL blouse for 20 euros. Not everything here is old, as they sell their own merch and handmade jewelry, and you can find something for every style. Looking for more? Soleil Noir also carries décor items, furniture, and accessories, so it really caters to your every need. Find enough items and they might even throw in a free Soleil Noir tote bag, and, let me tell you, it is super cool. Plus, they always have an incredible playlist so you can enjoy yourself while you hunt.

There are many places that could have easily made their way onto this list, as Rennes is a busy, vibrant, and diverse city (60,000 university students!), but these were my personal top four. Some honorable mentions were the library at Les Champs Libres (it’s not only free but has an incredible view of the city) Café Joyeux (a café serving incredible cookies and giving jobs to those with mental or physical handicaps), Okami No Enkai (a Japanese restaurant with a menu that changes weekly) and the Sunday market at Place des Lices. In any case, Rennes caters to every type of person, and I’ve only just begun exploring. Perhaps of you ask me in a month, this list will be totally different, but that’s the beauty of studying abroad: getting the chance to discover somewhere new.

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